I've been spending time lately with old friends while working on a new story for the Loan Soul boxset, releasing next month.
If you haven't yet met Darcie Rose, Demon Vin, or the adorable undead fox, Dash, you'll soon get a chance to binge their stories--and read the new one, exclusive to the boxset.
Skip below to read an excerpt from this new story, which I've titled No Free Souls.
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From the left: Ty and I have been listening to audiobooks during work (see my recommendations in my newsletter or Goodreads); in case you missed it, Audible is lowering the cost of audiobooks, including the Loan Soul series; a beautiful friend sent me this gorgeous fox pin to remember a dear reader friend who passed last year (see the Night Stalker dedication).
NO FREE SOULS EXCERPT & PREORDER
Haven't gotten around to reading my popular and award-winning Loan Soul series? Next month, you can read all four books in one boxset (coming to Kindle Unlimited, too).
Plus, it'll include an exclusive new story, No Free Souls. Below is an excerpt from this story. SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read books 1-4, it's recommended you skip this until you can binge the boxset because of light spoilers and character references.
SNEAK PEEK - Bonus Loan Soul Story Excerpt
Note: This excerpt from No Free Souls contains adult language and potential triggers of emotional and physical abuse.
Tucking the folder under one arm, Kida lifts her hands in a practiced move, appearing as if in prayer in front of her chest. There's no check or approval needed. It gives Kida comfort having this independence and authority. But the black magic needs a spark, a bit of friction to engage.
Some of her life-debt collecting peers go for the theatrical options with claps, snaps, and even slaps--one particularly outgoing SOLE employee in particular. She prefers to skip the drama, transitioning the soul departing their mortal realm without adding to the abrupt disorientation.
Kida's borrowed palms rasp as she rubs them together.
The octogenarian's eyes dim, and her lips part as she watches the collector. She hasn't yet been informed about demons, but she's definitely got an idea now.
Kida's mouth curves up in appreciation of completing her generous task. She's been told that the self-satisfied smile accompanied by the hands rubbing beneath her chin portrays a devilish look. It's nothing compared to her boss himself.
A sudden shout in the hallway halts Kida's efforts before she's fully separated the woman's soul from her used body. Distracted, Kida twists her head to frown at the interruption, and her palms immediately slicked with sweat as her heart pounds, remembered fear halting her lungs.
It's not her abuser, but the way he leans over the cowering woman is all too familiar. She can almost feel his fingers digging into her upper arms. The shame and embarrassment on the woman's downturned face flashes through Kida, bringing bile up her throat. He raises a hand, and she flinches, turning aside.
A nurse speaks to the man who yells louder at her until security shows up. As the man shakes them off and moves around to push the wheelchair down the hall, the woman's eyes lift and connect with Kida's--well, one does. The other is swollen shut and surrounded by a purple and yellowing bruise. Probably ran into a door. The woman's chin wobbles, but she lifts it high, her expression strong.
Then she disappears, pushed past the private room in which Kida stands, poised like a statue, jaw clenched tight and palms pressed together.
Beneath the immobile exterior burbles a nauseating crash of empathetic self-hatred, resignation, and disgust coated with fear, her expression now probably mirroring that woman's--one she hasn't worn since she was alive.
Kida knows exactly what that woman's experiencing. Fuck, does she understand and relate. She doesn't want to. Her nostrils flare, more anger coiling. She fucking hates that she's even still affected by that scene. Especially because she's never been one of the souls who lingers on her past. That shit was dead and buried before she died.
But now... now it surfaces, dredged from mucky depths and dripping in slime. Kida's life was an increasingly diminishing segment in her timeline, and yet somehow the savageries riding on her shoulders give a waspish sting.
She takes a step toward the door, drawn to follow, to help, to enact revenge, to...
"Bubba?" A child's tearful whisper twists Kida's chin back to the mourners. A small hand reaches toward the old woman's face where her eyelids have drifted half-shut, her soul caught in the midst of extraction.
The collector purses her lips, trying to push what she saw from her mind, to focus on finishing her job. She can't get involved in the lives of the living, not if she doesn't want her boss pissed at her. And she really doesn't.
Suddenly, the need to get away from this Earth and the reminders of its terrors ride Kida hard, urging her to hurry up.
Fuck this shit.
"Be free," Kida Ballo instructs her mark in a harsh whisper and rubs her palms more vigorously, generating heat from the friction between her clammy palms.
(c) L.B. Carter 2023. Subject to change/editing.
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